Donald Krotee: Giving old house new lease on life

Then: Donald Krotee, an architect specializing in refurbishing old buildings, gladly lives in the past.

In 1993, the Newport Heights resident was busy designing the restoration of the Masonic Temple in downtown Santa Ana. Krotee said the temple is the last unreinforced masonry building in Santa Ana and, unless restored, would probably be condemned.

“The simple idea of fixing old things is fascinating to me,” he said. But not everyone feels the same way. “The culture and beauty of old buildings if vanishing,” he said. “It’s vanishing in our neighborhood and vanishing in our country.”

Now: The temple project never got off the ground. “The developer turned tail and ran from the building,” the 51-year-old said. “We ended up holding the bag. Unfortunately, that kind of thing happens in real estate development once in a while.”

Flaky developers were not a problem in a recently completed project that is nearest and dearest to his heart—his own home, a ranch house built at the turn of the century. “The title company has records of James Irvine being the original owner,” Krotee said. “Whether or not any Irvine lived in this house, I don’t know.”

In a yearlong project that ended on Thanksgiving, he added a second story, a new roof, and new paint. What was once a simple 1,600-square-foot house has grown to 4,000 square feet. But the old charm still shines through. There are hand-carved redwood columns on the front porch, the original ranch front door as well as a potbellied, wood-burning stove that “works like a champ” in the kitchen, Krotee said.

Restoring his home wasn’t easy, but Krotee was willing to make the effort. “It takes someone who is going to love these problems to fix them,” he said.

(Eron Ben-Yehuda, “Then and Now,” Daily Pilot, June 2000)

Diana NguyenEron Ben-Yehuda